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Change Of Face Entrepreneurial shapeshifters may be in one business today and something entirely different tomorrow. The key is knowing when it's time to change focus.

By Mark Henricks

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

After his father was murdered in 1981, computer database expert David Wheeler developed a program that could pinpoint perpetrators with startling accuracy by sifting through crime reports, tips and other investigative data. The first time he tried it, the program linked several seemingly unrelated crimes and fingered a suspect. "I've got something here," he thought.

In 1991, Wheeler, 39, founded InfoGlide, Inc. of Austin, Texas, to sell the software program to law-enforcement agencies. Local and national police departments utilized it to investigate everything from serial rapists to international terrorists. But other, cash-strapped public agencies lacked the financial means to support Wheeler's start-up. Says InfoGlide CEO Jay Valentine, 50, "If the client loves the product but can't afford to buy it, there's no market."

In 1996, InfoGlide discovered a new market. Fraud rings were costing the insurance industry hundreds of millions of dollars in spurious claims each year. Insurance investigators' efforts were stymied by the same problems police faced. There were huge files of accident reports, names, addresses, driver's license numbers and the like, many intentionally garbled by criminals to avoid detection. The first time Wheeler ran a file of insurance claims through his program, "it lit up like a Christmas tree," he says.

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